Martin Bashir on Meeting Howard Stern

His enemies have been introducing him for years as "outrageous," "sickening" and "disgusting." Yet when I met and interviewed Howard Stern he didn't correspond to any of these descriptive denunciations.

Stern, the so-called father of all shock jocks, is about to embark upon the biggest challenge of his 20-year career. On Monday he'll begin broadcasting the Howard Stern Show on Sirius Radio, a subscription-only digital channel that will cost subscribers $12.99 per month.

Not only must he carry the burden of broadcasting live five hours each day -- a brutal regime for any professional -- he must also prove that he's worth the $500 million that Sirius will pay him over the length of his five-year contract.

He spoke to "Nightline" from his new studio, which is still under construction, in midtown Manhattan, and immediately set about defending the standards of his own broadcast.

"I love to view outrageous behavior," he told me. "But outrageous behavior doesn't become me, I'm not comfortable with it. I'm more comfortable being the voyeur and observing it and trying to understand it. I'm like an anthropologist. I'm Margaret Meade in a sea of loons."

While it has become easy and popular to dismiss Howard Stern as the purveyor of a childish form of potty humor, he argues that he amounts to much more than mindless obscenity. He believes that, by saying the unsayable, he's doing two things: First, he's raising issues that many of us feel too embarrassed to discuss; and second, he's challenging hypocrisy. You may not agree with him, but there is some method in the madness.

And now that his listeners will have to pay for the benefit of his wisdom, he will need to be even more wise.

Howard Stern -- he's inventive, he's provocative and now he's expensive.

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